The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Met’s HD “Rheingold” sells out on Madison’s west side side but not east; the Madison Opera starts a new season with record subscription sales and more money

October 11, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

Well, I guess it was to be expected.

There are two cinemas in Madison (Eastgate and Point) now showing the Metropolitan Opera’s hi-def live broadcasts, the first one of the 12-show season – Wagner’sDas Rheingold” in a new production by director Robert Laplante — was sold out on the west side but not on the east side  where a couple who couldn’t get into Point told me they went there and ended up with about only other 50 people in the audience.

So maybe, to paraphrase Horace Greeely, the lesson is: Go East, young man.

On the west side, the show was so crowded, people started arriving 1-1/2 hours early to get good seats.

I know because I was there (below).

And it was impressive overall.

So people ask me: How was it?

Well, I loved the singing — Bryn Terfel as Wotan was outstanding, despite his Veronica Lake hairstyle, as was most of the main cast , especially Stephanie Blythe as Fricka and Eric Owens as Alberich — and I really liked the high-tech set a lot.

But I’ll admit it: I’m not much of a Wagner fan. When it comes to opera, I really am more of a Puccini or maybe Mozart or Verdi guy.

The plot, at least of “The Ring” cycle, seems damn near inexplicable, unintelligible and irrelevant. And talk about lateral drift! Plus, too often the music lacks the same tunes and harmonies that I so love in Wagner’s overtures and in certain moments like the “Liebestod” or “Lovedeath” in “Tristan und Isolde.”

Here is a link to a review by critic Anne Midgette:

Of course the Met host and spokesperson – in this case, the slimmed down, superstar soprano Deborah Voigt – urged people to attend live opera productions, both at the Met and in their hometown cities.

And if you feel that the Met broadcasts are hurting that goal — say, the Madison Opera, for example – think again.

It seems to be working out exactly as Allan Naplan (below), the general director of the Madison Opera told me a couple of seasons ago: The extremely successful Met broadcasts, which just started their expanded fifth season and have become extremely popular, build audiences for opera and whet the public’s appetite for live productions.

At least that is what seems to be happening here.

So it is in that spirit that I pass along the good news:

The Madison Opera’s new season – its 50th — has gotten off to a great start with a new donor grant and record subscription sales as well as the fifth consecutive operating surplus from last year.

Here is the full press release:


“Madison, Wis. – Madison Opera has received a $20,000 grant from the Madison Community Foundation’s Pleasant Rowland Great Performance Fund for Theater.

“With record subscription sales for the 2010-2011 season and an operating budget surplus for the recently closed 2009-2010 season, Madison Opera begins it 50th anniversary season in strength.

“The Fund for Theater award will support Madison Opera’s production of Kurt Weill’s “The Threepenny Opera” in the Playhouse at the Overture Center for the Arts, Feb. 4–13, 2011.

“This landmark work was chosen for the 50th anniversary season in order to pay tribute to Madison Opera’s repertoire history, which for many years included both opera and musical theater. Dorothy Danner, a versatile director and former Broadway actress, leads the production, which stars American Players Theater favorites James DeVita (below) and Tracy Michelle Arnold, and Broadway veteran David Barron.

“General Director Allan Naplan said, “We are thrilled and honored to have the support of the Madison Community Foundation for our second production in the Playhouse. The Threepenny Opera will offer audiences a vivid theatrical and musical experience, which this generous grant will help bring to life.”

“Further adding to the momentum of the new season, Madison Opera’s subscription sales recently reached an all time company high, with a 19% increase over the 2009-2010 season and a 77% increase in new subscribers.

“The increase may be attributed to numerous factors, including the popular and diverse programming for the anniversary season, the 15% discount offered for new subscribers, and a new online subscription option.

“This strong start comes after the end of Madison Opera’s 2009-2010 fiscal year on Aug. 31: for the fifth consecutive season, the company ended with an operating budget surplus.

Anchored by strong ticket sales that brought an average season capacity of 92%, the season was both an artistic and financial success as Madison Opera presented a sell-out run of “Carmen,” an inventive new production of Britten’s “The Turn of the Screw” and the company’s Wagner debut, “The Flying Dutchman” (below).

Tickets are currently on sale for Madison Opera’s 2010-2011 Season: Celebrating Fifty Years, featuring Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” (below, in a Dallas production, on Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. and 7 at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall); “The Threepenny Opera”; Verdi’s “La Traviata” (Friday, April 29, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 1, at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall; and the 10th anniversary of Opera in the Park on Saturday, July 16.

Visit or call (608) 258-4141 for tickets and information.

Were you at “Das Rheingold”? What did you think?

What do you think of the Madison Opera’s good news?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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